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by Kalina Newman July 17, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

It’s no secret that the video game industry is rapidly growing and changing. Stephen Gheysens, 25, realized this when he sat down to play a new video game a few years after graduating college.

As he started to play, Gheysens realized that even a little time off from video games had left him much worse at gaming then he used to be.

“I turned to my friend and said, ‘I would literally pay for a lesson so that I could enjoy this,'” said Gheysens.

Thus, GamerTrainer — which is based in Arlington — was born. Even though eSports, the professional competitive gaming industry, is constantly expanding (it even has its own page on ESPN), there was no formal platform for one-on-one video game lessons, according to Gheysens.

“There are pro gamers out there that already give lessons but they’re very informal,” said Gheysens. “Why would you watch a YouTube video of someone playing the piano when you could take a lesson?”

GamerTrainer differentiates itself from just watching an online tutorial in that every lesson is personalized to the gamer.

“When you learn from somebody and have that direct feedback from someone that’s spent years perfecting the craft of the game, they’ll be able to see ‘Okay, you’re making this mistake, here’s how to correct it,” said Gheysens.

Anyone can take a lesson through GamerTrainer, whether they are just a beginner trying to get better for fun or a serious player wanting to sharpen and perfect their skills so that they can compete professionally through eSports.

“The market is really out there,” said Gheysens, “There’s a lot of money being pumped into eSports, and just recently a game called Overwatch launched a league of players in eight different cities.”

The GamerTrainer platform hasn’t officially launched yet but is expected to within the next couple of weeks. Lessons will take place over the popular online game streaming platform Twitch.

The person taking a lesson will have an online video chat with a trainer, and the trainer will also be able to see their game on the screen. This allows anyone to take lessons from the comfort of their own home.

Gheysens is aware that there are hundreds of video games out there and that no one can have a versed knowledge of every single game.

“We’re focusing on the top fifteen or so competitive games across PC and consoles such as Xbox One and PS4,” said Gheysens. Popular games include Overwatch, Call of Duty and the Madden NFL series.

“Train with the Best to Become the Best,” is GamerTrainer’s motto on Twitter, as the new startup makes its way through a rapidly expanding industry.

by Kalina Newman July 10, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Rize has come a long way, literally and physically. The online savings website was first picked up in 2014 as part of the Silicon Valley-based venture fund 500 Startups. Once enough money was invested, it moved across the country to a permanent home in MakeOffices in Clarendon.

Rize works as an online savings account, designed to make automatic transfers from a user’s main bank account with a higher interest rate than any other national bank. Money saved in Rize is insured up to $250,000 and there are no required monthly fees.

It went live in April after a beta testing period.

Online money management isn’t new. PayPal popularized online payments in the late 90s. Payment app Venmo was created in 2009 and has become a oft-used tool when splitting a bill with friends. Almost every major bank has their own app complete with its own budgeting options.

Rize differentiates itself from the crowd on a personal level — the startup says it truly cares about the user’s money and experience. When setting a savings goal, users can choose from the traditional, such as “Emergency Fund,” or “Vacation,” or they can create their own custom goal.

Rize’s savings interest rate is 15 times higher than the national average. While this would seem like a big cost for the startup, Amatori said a higher interest rate should be the norm across the country.

“Banks have the option to give you an interest rate larger than 1 percent, but they choose not to,” said Erica Amatori, marketing lead for Rize. “We give our customers back the money they deserve.”

Rize also appeals to customers on a personal level by giving them the option to choose whether or not they pay a monthly fee. Not only that, users can choose how much they would want to pay. It’s a win-win scenario, because it’s also how the startup earns a profit.

“We make money from our pay-as-you-want model, so at the end of the sign-up process you can pay $1, $2, $3 or nothing a month to use our product,” said Amatori. “Most of our customers do pay us something a month, usually around $2.50.”

In addition to having no maintenance fees, unlike some major banks, Rize users can make unlimited transfers and withdrawals. Most major banks limit the number of transfers users can make before they must pay a fee.

“It’s a really exciting time for us because banks are screwing up a lot, so to be on the verge of this revolution where tech is such a big thing and we know we can make it better,” said Amatori. “Banks are blindsided by it.”

So far, Rize is only available via the web, but Amatori said that a smartphone app is coming soon.

by Katherine Berko July 3, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A new startup offering free pick-ups and drop-offs in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor in its electric cars has gotten quite a bit of attention just weeks after launch.

Sprynt can be downloaded for iOS and works similarly to other ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. Users enter their current location, destination and the number of passengers, then request a ride. They are then told their driver’s name and an estimated time of arrival.

“I came up with something that was a short, quick hop in between point A and point B,” said Alex Villanueva, the 26-year-old founder, about the company’s name.

Sprynt launched on June 21 and currently has four cars, with a fifth on the way. Within five days, the app had over 700 downloads.

“In order for the concept to work you need a special area where it’s densely populated and people all live, work and play within a couple of square miles,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva does not view his service as having competitors because he believes Sprynt complements the existing methods of transportation.

“It’s a too far to walk but too close to drive little niche, where you still need perhaps Uber or Lyft, or the Metro or the bus, to get anywhere else outside of our service area, ” Villanueva said.

He explained people may want to take his service if it’s a hot, cold or rainy day, if they don’t feel like walking or if they want to drink wherever they are going. Some of Sprynt’s customers are already regulars and use the service to commute.

“It’s really meant to be this gimmick-free [service],” said Villanueva. “I’ve been telling riders, ‘When I drop you off my goal is for you to feel it’s too good to be true.'”

The business is able to provide free rides thanks to its advertisers. Villanueva said that the likes of Don Tito, Tupelo Honey Café, Ten at Clarendon and Miriam’s Kitchen have already partnered with Sprynt.

“By sponsoring the service and by advertising through our advertising platforms, these companies are able to build goodwill while at the same time still promoting the products and services they were going to anyway,” Villanueva said.

There are three different ways businesses can advertise. The first option is to promote their companies on the two 12.9-inch interactive iPads placed in the cars. A restaurant might put its menu on the i-Pad or a company might include a job posting.

The iPad option is the cheapest option because people can only see the ads if they are physically inside the cars, interacting with the devices. Villanueva said he hopes to increase activity on the iPads by creating a Photo Booth feature.

“[This is a] way to make sure that the advertising is not a distraction from the rider’s experience but rather, is a part of it,” Villanueva said.

(more…)

by Katherine Berko June 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

If you’ve ever wanted to prepare a restaurant-quality meal in your own kitchen, your hunger may now be satisfied.

CookDC is a startup based out of Shirlington that delivers ready-to-cook meals to your doorstep. Its stated goal is “turning home cooks into chefs.” Examples of previous meal-kits include grass-fed flat iron steaks with smashed marble potatoes and romano beans as well as more exotic dishes such as homemade tagliatelle with wild stinging nettle pesto.

CookDC differentiates itself from similar food delivery services by prioritizing flavor over convenience and price. CookDC is not designed to be the cheapest or most efficient meal delivery option, but teaches people to cook delicious food comparable to a fancy dinner out.

“Everything is ordered a la carte so it’s not a subscription like the national chains,” said Matthew McCormack, who founded CookDC with his wife, Debbie McCormack. “You go [online and look at the menu] and if you see something you like, you buy it.”

Each meal comes with a written-up explanation of its historical background along with a description of the cooking techniques needed to prepare it.

“[The Food Network or cookbooks] are telling you how to cook it but they’re not telling you where you’re supposed to get wild morels from, [for example],” McCormack said. “They’re not handing it to you and then showing you how to use it, [like us].”

The culinary term for what CookDC does is “mise en place,” French for “put in place.” Professional kitchens spend all day prepping their ingredients and once their restaurant opens, all the chefs do is cook the food.

“As soon as a restaurant service starts, nobody is cutting a carrot,” McCormack said. “We’re giving you the ‘mise en place,’ giving you very clear instructions on how to finish that dish yourself. It’s prepped, it’s packaged.”

Customers do have the option of paying extra to get the meal fully prepared, or they can specify that they do not want to cook it that night. They can also double the portion or request kids’ servings.

Meals are delivered throughout the D.C. region between 2-5 p.m. The night before delivery, customers are told whether or not they need a certain pan for the meal or if they will have to fire up their grill in order to cook it. On the day of delivery, customers are texted when the meal-kit has left CookDC’s kitchen. Meals are delivered in coolers and are packaged in step-by-step compartments. Each meal usually has between three to seven steps.

(more…)

by Chris Teale June 19, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A software startup received a $35,000 grant at Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting after relocating to Crystal City last year.

Stardog is one of two companies to receive a Gazelle Grant, an incentive program from Arlington Economic Development for fast-growing companies to locate in the county.

The other company to receive a grant so far, Videoblocks, announced it would move to Courthouse last month. It will receive $110,000.

Stardog moved to 1400 Crystal Drive in September, having launched in 2005 in the Shaw neighborhood of D.C. CEO Kendall Clark said the company helps businesses bring together internal data from various different sources.

Clark said that while that process could take a large company like Samsung a week and use 30 people to collate all the data on, for example, the purchases of a certain dishwasher in the corridor between D.C. and New York, Stardog’s technology does the job in a matter of seconds.

Stardog already serves the likes of NASA, Oxford University Press and Bosch.

“We’re lucky to have found a bunch of really big customers who have this problem and we solve it well,” Clark said. “It’s not an area that anyone else is really focusing on in our software, so it’s a good combination of need and the software business that we’re looking at, which is a good combination if you can find it.”

Clark said Stardog chose Arlington after its landlord in Shaw tripled the rent, but he said the new Crystal City location has many benefits for employees. With software developers based as far afield as Hawaii and Moscow, Clark said the close proximity to National Airport and Metro helps staff get around easily, while the places where people can eat and live are numerous.

In addition, Clark said, Stardog found Arlington to be a much easier place to do business in as a startup.

“All the business license and low level paperwork that doesn’t really get you any advantage to being in a place — but if you don’t do it it’s bad — it’s lots of stuff like that in Arlington that you can do online,” he said. “In the District, I found for whatever reason there was always some reason I or somebody else had to go to an office in Southeast, struggle with parking and the whole nightmare and then go in and you’re there all day.”

Under the terms of the grant, Stardog must create 70 new full-time jobs at its Arlington office and lease 3,500 square feet of office space. If, by the end of 2019, it has not hit 90 percent of its space target and 50 percent of its employment target, it will have to pay back some or all of the grant.

A staff report that recommended approving the grant said Stardog will use the grant to help build out its new office, relocate its operations and recruit and train new employees.

Clark said the company plans to triple its revenue from last year, and is “on track” right now to do just that. That new revenue will lead to more full-time employees, which will lead to “more people buying houses,” Clark said.

by Brooke Giles June 12, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A new app has been designed to help busy Arlington moms organize their social calendars.

On MamaLeave, local moms can find playgroups and activities in their neighborhoods. Instead of traditional playgroups with set days, the app takes advantage of mobile technology to make the experience more spontaneous.

The woman behind the app is Laurie Cordova, a product development professional based in Arlington. The mother of two said that as a working mom, both from at home and in the office, she often needed to make plans quickly.

She also recognized that some moms have evolving availability. They might find it difficult to join an established playgroup, or they might not want to commit to a group because they know their schedule will change.

“The goal is to create flexibility for moms, if they’re home during the day or if they’re just available on weekends or night time,” said Cordova. “I think it appeals to moms no matter what their situation is.”

MamaLeave connects through Facebook, where moms can fill out a profile and connect automatically to moms in their zip code who also have the app installed. Moms can join the events — known as “Mama Leaves” — that interest them, or they can create their own event. If a family lives close to another zip code, they can also be linked to “Mama Leaves” in those neighborhoods as well.

The other goal of the app is to bring communities together in a way that is accessible in modern society. In a world where outside play is less common and many are wary of strangers, Cordova said MamaLeave helps get neighbors talking.

“Everyone is glued to a device, they’re used to meeting people through a device,” Cordova said. “People don’t approach people to make friends or to meet their neighbors in the same way.”

The app is live now but Cordova calls this is the “beta” period. She is focused on building the app in Arlington and within her own network.

“The most important thing for me right now is to see how people use it and what they think of it,” Cordova said.

MamaLeave is available for both Android and iPhone.

by Brooke Giles June 5, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Local students could soon be using Foresight Guided Path to Success to help them reach their career goals.

In his full-time job as an engineer, Jody Mitchell is often faced with using teamwork to problem solve. This led the Arlington resident to develop ForeSight, a web application made up social, visual and analytic components.

His own experience is what inspired him to incorporate education. Mitchell says when he was in high school he knew he wanted to work in engineering but didn’t know all that it took to get there.

“I didn’t have a goal to get into college, I didn’t have a plan I was working toward and I didn’t have that support team in my corner, guiding down the right path to get to where I wanted to be.”

ForeSight applications are made to help students develop their goals. With an account, students can select the college of their choice and prospective major, then they outline what grades and standardized test scores they need to get into the school. Parents, school guidance counselors and mentors receive updates when the student is straying off course.

As more students use Foresight GPS school officials can not only have a system tracking student success, but it can also provide information about the school itself.

“You have that data, you’re able to understand what constitutes as improvement and what doesn’t. Maybe it’s a difference in study plans one teacher has that another teacher doesn’t,” said Mitchell.

The historic data is also beneficial to students who are interested in going to schools that their older peers have gotten into. Access to data from previous students also allows for students to have realistic data to inform their decisions.

Magruder High School in Rockville and National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, Md. both currently use ForeSight GPS. Meanwhile, Baton Rouge Community College in Baton Rouge, La. uses Foresight Guide Path to Employment, for students with cognitive learning disabilities. It focuses on helping students gain independent learning skills.

Mitchell says the next move for his company is to get funding, so he and his business partner can start working on ForeSight full time. He’s applied to the incubator program at Halcyon in D.C., and the Center for Innovative Technology’s GAP fund program. He plans to apply for the Capital Factory Accelerator in Austin, Texas.

With funding, Mitchell wants to start a marketing campaign for ForeSight to help it take off in the D.C. area. There are hopes to expand further in Louisiana, where Mitchell is originally from. Once Foresight builds out across the U.S., he wants to go into the international market.

“It drives you down along that path and as soon as you get off track it will re-vector you back on track. That’s where we see Foresight GPS in the future,” said Mitchell.

by Chris Teale May 22, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A new startup is looking to help landlords and tenants through every stage of the rental process, from listing and vetting potential renters to dealing with maintenance requests.

Sisters Miriam and Brenda Bolanos started Clarendon-based Leaseably last year, and began serving customers in April. The pair also have experience managing Airbnb properties, and said they want to save potential landlords money and time when they look to lease out their property.

The service is aimed at those who are looking to rent out one or two properties, as opposed to being for large apartment buildings, which already have in-house management and maintenance.

“If you think about it just conceptually, the options that owners have today for property management is a real estate company or managing it by themselves,” said Brenda Bolanos. “There’s nothing in between. So we are that in-between that will offer assistance to owners to help them manage their property to save time and to save money so they don’t have to pay as much as real estate companies charge.”

After registering their interest in using Leaseably, a potential landlord must provide details on their property and some photographs. The company then takes care of listing the property and being the point-of-contact for interested renters, before then coordinating viewings.

Once vetting potential renters, homeowners have the option to either prepare the lease themselves or use Leaseably to go through a realtor to prepare the paperwork. After providing an inspection list for move-in, tenants are in place.

But Leaseably’s services extend beyond getting homeowners a tenant. Once the renter is in place, they can help troubleshoot problems in the home and coordinate with a contractor to provide maintenance.

And the pair said that doing everything through virtual assistant software should help maintain a relationship between the landlord and their tenant by addressing needs quickly and automating as much as possible.

“Property management and real estate overall hasn’t had a change like everything else we have experienced with embracing new technologies,” said Brenda Bolanos. “Things haven’t changed in years, and of course part of it is regulation. I think there’s an opportunity to do things in a cost-effective manner, not compromising the security or trust of people, but opening that space that will offer a service at a reasonable price and that also responds to tenants and landlords.”

The sisters began Leaseably having spent a decade working for international organizations and managing Airbnb properties in Arlington. They said they had heard about other people’s difficulties managing their rented properties while working abroad or traveling, and so wanted to make things easier for everyone.

“One of the lessons was to have clear communication channels with tenants,” said Brenda Bolanos. “To know what they can expect and be able to respond when they need something in the property. We had long-term people who were abroad working for the government, and good communication was the best experience.”

by Chris Teale May 15, 2017 at 3:50 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A mobile app that allows customers to have their dry cleaning and laundry picked up, done and returned expanded its service into Arlington last month.

Cleanly, a Manhattan-based startup, now serves the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, including Clarendon and Courthouse. Since launching in 2015, it has cleaned more than 2.5 million pounds of laundry.

Company co-founder and CEO Tom Harari said Arlington is the perfect market for its service: full of professionals who commute to and from work each day who do not necessarily have time to do laundry.

Users are able to schedule pick-ups online and via the app in a few clicks, and can provide customized cleaning and laundering instructions to Cleanly’s vendors in minutes. Users can also use the app to a photo highlighting stains on clothes for attaching to the order.

Cleanly’s RUSH feature allows customers to designate their pick-up and delivery time to the hour and receive their clothes back the same day, while tracking their delivery on the app’s map using GPS.

Harari said the app was born to help those either too busy to do laundry, without facilities nearby or unable to drop their clothes off with a cleaning company.

“With so many of these services going towards app-based in the tech world, it seemed logical to me that this would become an industry that would be overturned by technology and made simpler,” Harari said. “It just wasn’t, there was nobody doing this at the time and it kept sitting on my head. I kept asking myself, ‘Why doesn’t someone do this?’ And finally I just said, why don’t I try this?”

And the technology in the app, like letting customers photograph stains to be removed, is to help what can be an arduous task simpler and try to remove any issues that might crop up.

“We start with the basic understanding that laundry is just not a fun thing,” Harari said. “People don’t like to do laundry, and if we can take that one task off of people’s task list or chore list of the week, then we’ve accomplished what we need to accomplish. So we’ve always tried to think of, how can we delight customers? It’s our No. 1 core value.”

Cleanly makes use of local wholesale cleaners in the region to carry out orders for customers, something he said is similar to dry cleaners, which generally do not do their own cleaning any more.

So far, Harari said business has been brisk, on the back of an advertising campaign on the Metro system, direct mail and social media.

“It’s been about two or three weeks already that we’ve been in Arlington and so far, so good,” Harari said. “We’ve already built up a sizable waitlist, so people from Arlington have already heard of Cleanly and are signing up…This is how we wanted it to work, so that by the time we were ready logistically and operationally to open up, we had a pool of users who were already interested in the service and could turn it on and get what they want.”

by Chris Teale May 8, 2017 at 3:50 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Imagine filling in an online questionnaire, paying a fee and having someone else plan a surprise vacation for you, from the destination to the activities you will do once there.

The Vacation Hunt offers just that, founded by two residents near Columbia Pike about two months ago. Co-founder Roshni Agarwal said it was inspired by their love of travel, which she does a lot with husband and co-founder Jeff Allen.

“People are always commenting, ‘How do you decide where to go? How do you have time to plan everything?'” Agarwal said. “Our response is always that we just go. We see an open weekend, and we say we’ll just go somewhere. It doesn’t really matter where, we just go.”

On its website, those interested in such a planned vacation enter basic details like whether they want to travel domestically or abroad, how long for and if they want to travel alone or with others.

Then, a questionnaire gives customers options of the kind of vacation they are looking for — a city break, beach vacation or adventure holiday, for example — and they can list anywhere they have already been or are already planning to go to. Would-be vacationers also specify which airport they would prefer to fly out of.

With that form filled out and money paid, customers have the option of receiving clues about their destination either via social media, email or text message, to build the anticipation. Then a week before departure date, a full itinerary is sent out with travel and accommodation details as well as activities.

The company also offers separate trip planning for those with their destination already in mind, helping create an itinerary based on customers’ budgets.

Agarwal said having the vacation be something of a surprise is to try and inject an element of fun into the planning process.

“When you’re older, everything is kind of planned for you, at least that’s been my thing,” she said. “You have your life goals and whatever, and whenever you do have surprises, they’re not good. You never get a good surprise as an adult, or at least I have yet to. I wanted to do something that would be fun and bring back that joy of being young again.”

Already, Agarwal said, The Vacation Hunt has planned a variety of surprise trips, including its first group outing as it sent 20 people to Seattle for a surprise party. Agarwal said it has gained a following in Dallas, where the pair lived before moving to Arlington, and that now its focus is on growing its stature in the D.C. region.

The company has also been approached to help engaged couples plan their honeymoons, a market Agarwal said they might look to expand in the future.

“We’ve also been asked to do two honeymoons, so we might try to expand more into the honeymoon area, because you’re already under the stress of wedding planning, it’s one less thing to do, which we hadn’t really thought of when we started this,” she said.

Image via Facebook

by Chris Teale May 1, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

As the spring turns to summer, one of many certainties in the D.C. region along with the stifling heat and humidity is the influx of interns from across the country.

And those interns, either still in college or recent graduates, typically are in need of somewhere to stay.

That’s where Capstay comes in, offering short-term rentals for interns in addition to accommodations for international students studying in the D.C. area. The company also offers short-term housing for professionals on temporary assignments, including for those in the military.

It was founded in 2015 by Dilek and Emre Yenici, and the majority of its rental apartments are in Crystal City, with some also in Fairfax.

The pair said they began the business after doing some market research and finding a lack of intern-specific housing in some states like California and the D.C. metropolitan area.

“The Crystal City, Arlington and D.C. area is expensive for housing,” said Emre Yenici. “There are lots of interns in the area throughout the year, and they are looking for short-term housing. We are trying to provide them short-term, pre-furnished, all utilities included housing to interns.”

Tenants can either have a private or shared room, or an entire apartment. All properties are fully furnished and have a variety of amenities like laundry, cleaning services and bicycle rental. Utilities are also included in rent, which varies depending on the season.

Apartments vary in size between studio and three-bedroom, and include all the amenities of the private and shared rooms.

Emre Yenici said Capstay has been proactive in partnering with universities and other institutions like language schools, government bodies and agencies that help match up prospective interns with companies.

The diverse nature of their client base means that while summer is a busier time for Capstay, there are still plenty of customers year-round, enough to keep their residences filled.

“We are trying to fill all our gaps with different customer bases,” Emre Yenici said. “There are some interns starting their internships in different times of the year, and other small groups are interning in other different times. They need shorter-term housing, so we fill our gaps like that.”

In the summer, the Yenicis said, they expect around 100 tenants, and so expand their housing stock to take into account the higher demand.

And in the future, Emre Yenici said Capstay could expand into the District to take advantage of the need for intern housing across the Potomac River.

“About 95% of our properties are in Crystal City, but D.C. is a good market,” he said. “The next step will be D.C., and we will try to expand our business downtown.”

by Chris Teale April 24, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

With the growth of electric vehicles nationwide, one Arlington startup is looking to solve what could be a common problem: the need for extra electricity when not near a charging station.

Electric Feel works on the same principle as a portable battery bank that can charge a cell phone. Its energy storage device holds about 5 kilowatts of power, which translates to about 25 miles per charge for an electric vehicle.

Company founder Farah Brunache has been designing her storage device for over a year, and said she was inspired by driving an electric car herself but not using her apartment complex’s charging facilities every night.

“That’s when I realized I needed to look hard at when I was able to reach my destination that following day, and that’s when I thought of the concept of doing a partial charge, which is basically what my device does,” she said. “I essentially started the business to fill in the gap of needing to partially charge your vehicle.”

Currently, the storage device Brunache is designing weighs around 20 pounds, which she said “sounds super heavy.” She said the design is still in the early stages so she used standard batteries, but in the future hopes to cut the device’s weight in half to 10 pounds or less.

“I like to tell people it’s similar to how people carry their bikes to work,” Brunache said. “You’ll ride with it, and it’s not heavy then, and then when you’re going to transition into a building or lock it up, then yes you have to lift it. It is weighty but manageable.”

Right now, Brunache said her goal is to start shipping the product at the end of this year or the beginning of next to begin beta testing. Those interested in helping test the device — and Brunache said there has been a lot of interest — can sign up online. The process of working out how to manufacture the product is ongoing.

“It’s still being tested, and I’m speaking to these different manufacturers to get a better understanding of what a minimum order would need to be,” Brunache said. “Right now, I’m working on starting beta testing, getting feedback and working on final design changes. Throughout that process, I’ll gather a list of individuals interested in testing, so then it can help set expectations of manufacturing.”

Given the growth of electric vehicle use both in Arlington and nationwide, and the additions of charging stations at apartment buildings, parking garages and stores, Brunache said her device can help fill a growing need.

“One of the things is electric vehicles, the way that we as drivers use them, we always need electricity, just like in life, kind of like how we always need water,” she said. “It’s a resource we’re constantly needing. I definitely see this as something that will be loved by the masses, especially as more electric vehicles get on the road.”

by Chris Teale April 17, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A county startup was one of just six companies selected last week for a business accelerator focused on helping cities be smarter and more livable.

Arlington-based Greater Places will participate in the Smart City Works Infrastructure Actuator, the first in the Greater Washington area, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced on Friday.

The accelerator focuses on growing young companies that help make cities smarter, more livable and more resilient. This program, operated in conjunction with the Center for Innovative Technology, is anticipated to help drive innovation in infrastructure while fostering economic development.

Also in the program are McLean- and San Jose, Calif.-based UnomicEdge; Integrated Health Solutions of D.C.; Infraccess of New York; Chicago-based Capital Construction Solutions and PlanIT Impact of Kansas City, Mo.

Greater Places provides urban design solutions including models of transit-oriented development, and it is already looking ahead to the growth of driverless vehicles. It comprises a soon-to-be-launched mobile app as well as the website, which have evolved from it previously being published as a physical textbook, and is based at startup incubator 1776.

Founder Lisa Nisenson previously helped create “Cards Against Urbanity,” a parody of the irreverent card game “Cards Against Humanity” to get players thinking about urban planning while poking fun at the cities they live in.

The incubator program consists of an intense 90-day business boot camp where startups are mentored in creating a sustainable and successful business, with a focus on identifying pilot opportunities, testing and marketing opportunities.

Smart City Works brings together subject-matter experts, industry leaders and investors to help launch, build, and grow successful startups.

Nisenson said in an interview that one-on-one mentorship is one of the most helpful aspects of the program.

The one-on-one attention that everyone’s getting is so completely essential,” Nisenson said. “There’s other types of incubators, and a lot of times you don’t get that one-on-one, it’s just, ‘Here’s the business model canvas, here’s the PowerPoint, check it out.’ In this case, they can go straight into your data and tell you what to modify and look at customer segments. It’s that attention to really honing in.”

The spring program ends on June 28 with a Demo Day, where companies will have the opportunity to pitch and demonstrate their technology to an audience of external mentors, investors and stakeholders.

“This first-in-the-nation business accelerator affirms Virginia’s role as a leader in creating livable, resilient communities,” said McAuliffe in a statement. “It will harness our region’s valuable assets and will attract technology companies from across the globe to the commonwealth. The actuator will allow us to bring cutting-edge technology to market, deploying these innovations in smart communities across Virginia and making us a national model for smart cities.”

by Chris Teale April 10, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Think of private investigators, and you might think of Magnum P.I. or Sherlock Holmes.

But from its new Crystal City headquarters, Trustify is looking to challenge those perceptions. Open since March 2015, it has now moved into a new space in Arlington, where it matches up private investigators with customers.

Trustify co-founder Jen Mellon said the company’s diverse staff — more than half are women — has helped make it more accessible to more people.

“There’s a lot of brand debt,” Mellon said. “We’ve worked hard to change the face of the industry. I think a lot of our success is because our team looks like their consumer.”

Trustify allows anyone to run background checks, investigate fraud, locate missing children, check for infidelity and more from their web browser or the phone app. A consultation with a private investigator takes place over Trustify’s chat application, then investigators choose whether to pursue a case.

Company co-founder Danny Boice said that while about half of investigators’ work is done using standard surveillance techniques, much of it now is done through investigations of someone’s online presence and on the dark web.

“The internet makes a great accelerator for dishonesty,” he said. “For all the things it provides exponential growth, it also provides the perfect catalyst for puffing up your Facebook profile or LinkedIn or lying about not being in a relationship when you’re on Tinder, all those things.”

Mellon said Trustify recruits a lot among ex-law enforcement officers, including police and those retiring from agencies like the FBI and CIA. She said that the company conducts its own vetting of applicants to ensure their credentials and experience stack up, and that there are no black marks on their record.

Once someone is employed at Trustify, they step into an office culture that aims to make everyone feel comfortable. Employees have a designated space on the walls for photographs, while behind hidden doors are rooms for nursing mothers and other relaxation spaces.

Mellon said it was imperative to make employees feel valued internally, while externally, being surrounded by other technology firms and startups adds value too.

“We wanted a space not only to support our team, but support the work that we do,” Mellon said. “It’s nice to be a part of that technology community. It’s so conducive to the work we’re doing. We don’t have a lot of time to go somewhere else, so it’s nice to be in this concentrated technology corridor that we’re proud to be a part of.”

Trustify employed architecture firm Wingate Hughes to design its new office space, a process that took about eight weeks before another 12 weeks of construction.

Gavin Daniels, co-founding principal at Wingate Hughes, said the firm wanted Trustify employees to feel comfortable in their new space, while at the same time making it unique.

“I wanted something for them that was badass,” Daniels said. “I wanted someone to walk in and have that visceral reaction of, ‘Holy s–t. This is an office building? I can’t believe I’m standing here in an office building.’ I wanted people to get their breath taken away, smile and feel something.”

With the use of technology in a welcoming office environment, Boice said they are working hard to change how people view private investigation.

“We analyzed the market and found it’s an old industry that’s white male dominated, it’s a 1 percenter service,” he said. “We saw that if you changed how it could be consumed and made it accessible to everyone, then it could be this very large, new industry.”

More photos of Trustify’s new Crystal City office:

Danny Boice photo via Trustify

by Katie Pyzyk April 3, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Attending college comes with a variety of challenges, but the team behind 4stay doesn’t want finding secure and affordable student housing to be one of them.

The Crystal City-based startup’s founders — Akobir Azamovich and Faridun Nazarov — spent the past six years working in the housing rental field to learn industry trends and best practices. They recently launched 4stay with the help of Crystal City’s 1776 startup incubator.

4stay functions similarly to rental sites like Airbnb, but it’s for short- to medium-term student stays rather than vacations. Students — including graduate students and interns — can search for available housing based on factors like property size, neighborhood, length of stay and whether they prefer to live alone or with others.

The listings showcase the properties’ features, prices and photos. Residences come in a variety of types, from an entire apartment to a room in someone’s house, but they all must be fully furnished and the student must have an entire bedroom of their own.

4stay employees assist those on both sides of the housing equation. On the property side, they work with families or individuals who wish to rent out a room to ensure the owner can provide a safe, student-ready residence. On the rental side, employees learn about a student’s needs and their length of study to negotiate the lease. The 4stay team indicates that it also benefits students because its prices often are more reasonable than other choices.

“By providing options beyond realty companies in a centralized location, it’s a much more appropriate way for students to find the price point they’re looking for,” says marketing manager Leah Wald.

Azamovich and Nazarov are from Tajikistan and went to school in Northern Virginia. They have firsthand experience with the sometimes challenging and cumbersome process of finding student housing, especially in an unfamiliar city.

“The founders… want to help other students overcome their problems of finding safe, affordable housing near their school,” says Wald. “Having dealt with these problems themselves… is why they decided to found their company.”

The business currently serves students in the D.C. metro area, with a focus on Arlington and Northern Virginia. Although the 4stay team expects to spread into other cities at some point, right now they’re focused on ensuring a quality experience instead of expansion.

“Our primary goal to make sure platform is best it can be… and helping as many students as possible,” Wald says.

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